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Is this the Year of the Dog, or the Year of the Bird? Last night, a gorgeous picture of a Boykin Spaniel popped up on my Instagram. Liver colored, with soulful eyes, droopy ears and curly fur, it looked just like my very first dog. She was the sweetest, most lovable creature ever, although maybe everyone’s first love takes on a special significance over time.

The Boykin’s photo was courtesy of a National Geographic photographer I’m following who is shooting a series called the #yearofthedogs. His name is Vincent J Musi, “…a trusted friend to animals everywhere.” He doesn’t just capture their distinct personalities, he tells you a little bit about his encounter – like how much the dog may have drooled, while noting that he’s also drooled back in the day. It’s a witty and wonderful start (or end) to any day!

Meanwhile, in the middle of my Monday, I found myself at the Animal Hospital with the Bride and Groom’s older dog, the much loved G-man. I just happened to be playing super heroes with our L’il Pumpkin when I noticed Mr G really digging into one of his paws. Upon closer inspection there was blood on his dew claw; so without further adieu, we headed to the Vet. At that point the Love Bug came home from school and wanted to keep us company.

Her level of empathy is amazing for a 5 year old.

I’ll dispense with the gory details, Mr G is now wearing the cone of shame to keep him from tearing off his bandaged leg. The hardest part will be keeping the new puppy from trying to attack him, um play with him. Maybe I should visit our friend Robin’s pet store, “Come, Sit, Stay” to find Mr G a special treat?

What is it about dogs? Almost every picture I have of me as a child has me standing next to, or holding a dog. The Flapper’s first child, my half-sister Shirley, the one I never knew, used to raise Welsh Corgis. Of all the dogs in the AKC, I too chose Corgis to adore when my children were little, never knowing that Shirley felt the same way. German Shepherd dogs hold a special place in my heart, and let’s face it, ANY and ALL rescues, like Ms Bean and G-Man.

My niece Lynn breeds the regal Scottish Deerhound, a breed known for their sweet temperament. She’s in that category of Best in Show dogs, traveling the country with a plethora of hounds in the back seats. Come to think of it, Shirley’s daughter Karen loves to travel with her canine companions too! Hmm, now that’s a children’s book!

Every other dog you meet in Nashville is a Frenchie! I loved Musi’s photo of a French Bulldog named Larry, who is friendly in a “take over the world” kind of way. Y’all know my Francophile ways, so a Frenchie might just fit with us whenever and where ever the wind blows. Having one pup in a city townhouse is enough for now.

But I digress, because I was wondering about 2018 now that we are 3 months in, and it seems that this isn’t the Year of the Dog, even though I’m a dog addict. It’s the “Year of the Bird!”

“National Geographic, National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and more than 100 organizations join forces for 12 months of storytelling and science to examine how our changing environment is impacting birds around the globe.”

However, I wasn’t entirely wrong because according to the Chinese calendar 2018 is the Year of the Dog! Loosely translated we should all have “prosperous wealth.” I’m OK with that, because a house isn’t a home until it’s covered in fur. Maybe my next post will be about birds, and the way Ms Bean just plucked one out of the air!? Happy Birding everyone!

Awwww poor G-Man.

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Reddit bans guns sales. YouTube kicks gun fanatics off its site. Florida legislators have raised the age to 21 for buying your first gun, and on and on. Why is this different in our country’s national debate over common sense gun reform? It’s the messengers.

Teenagers have reframed the question; it’s not some esoteric debate about Second Amendment rights, they are simply asking not to be shot in their 5th period Chem class. And if you remember what it felt like to be 16, they actually think they can change the world!

I was 15 when JFK was shot. I was playing field hockey on a grassy high school lot when the milk man stopped to tell our gym teacher what happened; it’s forever embedded in my memory, even though there’s a Walgreens on that site today. We were all in shock, our parents and teachers were grieving. We didn’t see his brother Bobby and MLK’s assassinations in our future.

We didn’t know our generation was about to change the entire American culture with the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation Movements. We didn’t even know about Vietnam, yet.

We walked out of high school over a dress code.

Today teens are digital natives. And Parkland students are leading the charge on Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram to point out hypocrisy in all its many nuanced layers. The latest Associated Press poll tells us 7 out of 10 Americans want stricter gun controls. And look what happened just a few days ago, right after the Bride and her colleagues wrote a certain letter to the editor! http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/379563-republicans-agree-to-clarify-that-cdc-can-research-gun-violence

Republicans agree to clarify that CDC can research gun violence

And so it begins, your grand daddy’s rifle is NOT the same as an AR-15. #ENOUGH is enough and after tomorrow’s March For Our Lives in DC, I believe the momentum will continue. Country music fans and elementary students didn’t stand a chance. But high school students around the country are weaponizing social media, for the good of us all. If Facebook fueled the Arab Spring, imagine what this will do.

Maybe we should put these kids in charge of the Russian hacking problem? I have no doubt they would tell Putin a thing or two!   image

 

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Living in a townhouse, it’s been strangely comforting to know that Bob’s back, knees and elbows will be spared this Spring from the Big Clean-Up. No more hauling wheelbarrows filled with mulch. chainsawing stray limbs, or pruning branches on ladders. Our new chapter is getting better all the time! A landscaping crew arrived last week and plowed through all the heavy-lifting in two days, however the few feet in front of our front porch remains bare. What to do?

Why not spruce up our front yard?

The Bride had us over the other day to discuss her landscaping plans. Last year, when they moved into their first house, they tackled the back yard and installed a raised bed for veggies and a compost bin. Now she and the Groom are ready to beautify their run-of-the-mill foundation plants and install a fence. We gave her our opinions (isn’t it great when your adult children ask for your opinions?) but first we had lunch at Thistle Farms.

Thistle Farms is an amazing Nashville non-profit. It’s right in the Bride’s neighborhood and is so much more than a gift shop, cafe and tea house. I’ve been wearing their “Love Heals” cap for years and adore their hand soap and moisturizing lotions. Needless to say, the food is organic and heavenly! https://thistlefarms.org/

Thistle Farms’ mission is to HEAL, EMPOWER, AND EMPLOY women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. We do this by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners.  We believe that in the end, love is the most powerful force for change in the world. 

“There but for fortune,” is the Joan Baez song that runs through my brain whenever I step through the door of Thistle Farms. Everyone has a story, and we all have scars – the difference is these women are actively working to change their lives. When the Bride walked in and I embraced her, I saw the cashier smiling at us, and I saw the longing in her eyes. Had she lost her mother? Did she have to give away her daughter in a court battle?

Like the Flapper had to give me away to her friend for safe-keeping after the car accident.

“Bloom where you’re planted” has always been my motto since marrying my gypsy ER doc. Would I love to still be living at the edge of a bird sanctuary behind a white picket fence in the Berkshires almost 40 years later? Sure, but that just wasn’t in the cards for us. What makes a house a home for me is difficult to pin down, my family and a dog of course. And to some extent, a few flowers.

This morning I ordered two dwarf lilacs to plant next to my front steps, to honor my foster mother Nelly Bly.

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I was just reading “Bono: The Rolling Stone Interview,” about the U2 front man’s latest brush with death. It seems he is reluctant to tell us the details, only that it was a physical “extinction event” – meaning that we may also suffer a mental crisis or two in our lives. We may get stuck in the pain and anguish of losing a loved one, for example, and never recover. We could find ourselves on the endangered species list one day, and extinct the next, like a Dodo bird. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/bono-u2-state-of-the-world-what-he-learned-from-almost-dying-w514442

I mean really, a bird that couldn’t fly?

Let’s say you let a divorce define you, or an illness, or maybe a car accident your family had in 1949. You nearly died. You might have died, were it not for the loving arms of your Nana. Who will build up their resilient muscles to grow and recover, and who will crawl into their childhood room and wither?

Bob told me he’s had several physical extinction events, (and he was only semi-joking) the last one being two years ago on an operating table. You can imagine the rest; as a curious kid, he once set off an explosive that ripped the eyebrows off a playmate. Of course I can’t remember my Year of Living Dangerously, I was just a baby. I do remember at sixteen being side-swiped by a taxi in NYC, the skyscrapers swinging strangely around our car. My step-father, Judge B was driving and I was in the back seat, covered in broken, pebbled glass.

The doctor said his old Caddy saved my life, since it had a steel bar between the front and back seats.

I also hit a deer at full speed head-on one night in my first car, a VW bug. Not sure why the animal didn’t come through my windshield, but I must have been going so fast the deer was thrown away from the car. I remember being afraid to drive at night for a year after that.

And I have a vivid memory of stopping at a red light after playing tennis. I was in my thirties, the kiddos were little. Dopamine must have been flowing full blast since when the light turned green I hesitated for a moment. Just then a car sped by right in front of me, blasting through a red light. I realized that if I had not waited half a minute, I would have been broad-sided. It gave me pause…

Then I read this morning that today is the 20th anniversary of Monica Lewinsky’s little kerfluffle with President Bill Clinton. Monica really turned her life around; she was a young intern who made a few mistakes in judgement, notably talking with the wrong woman about her Oval Office encounters, consensual mind you, and was humiliated, in public. I would call this a mental extinction event that she managed to overcome. She Tweeted this:

“for 20 years, i’ve marked 16 jan as the day i survived another year from 1998. on this 20th (!!!) anniversary, thinkin’ maybe we could try a survivor’s chain. whaddya think? (too corny?) RETWEET if you survived the unimaginable in your life”

And today Scope will publish a well known report about Mr T’s encounters with a porn star just one year after marrying Melania. Granted, he wasn’t a president yet. Still, I wonder how the Religious Right feel about Hillary’s emails now? We have a Groper-in Chief who is ostensibly a racist and probably demented, since I don’t believe he drinks or does drugs of any kind which would explain his behavior.

Is our democracy heading toward the cliff of extinction? IF Bill Clinton or Barack Obama said or did any of the things Mr T has been guilty of doing lately, you betcha the government would come to a standstill. It’s too late for Mr T to learn how to fly, how to lead, how to govern. But we, the people, must #persist and #resist.

And a very big shout out to all those families in Nashville who are experiencing the FIFTH day of a combo snow/MLK holiday weekend at home with the kids! It will stop snowing, eventually!

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Just the other day I was talking with my brother Dr Jim and my sister Kay. We like to conference call between the Minnie Apple and the Big Apple and now the Music City. Dr Jim told us, in cleaning out a closet, he’d found the original book titled “101 Poems” that the Flapper used to read to them while they were doing chores around the house, after our Father died. There was no TV or internet, the radio was it for entertainment; that, and the human voice.

I told them how I’d recite “The Owl and The Pussycat” for the Love Bug and her brother while they climbed into a box and pretend to sail off to sea in a ‘beautiful pea green boat!’ They would look at me with wonder as the lilting, melodious words tripped off my tongue from some region in my brain that has to be reptilian. I must have loved that poem as a child, and I can imagine the Flapper after our car accident, lying on a couch with her legs post-surgery straight out in front of her, reading it to me over and over again.

Today I awoke to the memory of yesterday, to all the emotions of another terrorist act on our soil, at a country music concert. And because the gun man is white, without an apparent motive, gun nuts would like to chalk this one up to mental illness. But maybe, just maybe, this time our Congress might see through the lies of an NRA lobby, and have some bit of courage they couldn’t summon after Sandy Hook. There is NO need for our citizens to carry assault weapons that can spray death from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort. NONE.

For my morning meditation I turned to poetry. Like music, words always help me cope with the unimaginable. And I found this couplet from a 1961 poem by Philip Larkin, “Ambulances”:

Sense the solving emptiness

That lies just under all we do,

And for a second get it whole

So permanent and blank and true.

If poetry is your prescription for pain, you may enjoy an anthology by William Sieghart of 56 different poems, an Rx to help process the curve balls life can throw our way titled  “The Poetry Pharmacy.” He actually tells the reader which poem to read for which ailment – anxiety or the loss of a loved one? Or do you just need to get motivated? Maybe you’re approaching the end of life, and you wonder what it’s all about…Alfie.  http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170927-the-words-that-can-make-us-calmer

Thoughts and prayers just don’t do it for me. I’d rather read a poem and then call Congress!

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Happy Fourth of July! Maybe you’re planning a trip to a beach, if you’re not in NJ. Maybe you’re going to a park for some grilling, if you’re not in the middle of moving. Or maybe you just want to stay home, because driving on the Fourth is the last thing on my mind.

My family’s Year of Living Dangerously didn’t start on this holiday, but you might say it ended in July, 1949. The Flapper was just emerging from the fog of grief; we had buried our Father in April. She had been reading about the new airport opening in Wilkes-Barre, PA, so she called up a friend and asked if he wanted to go for a ride. My brother Mike didn’t want to go, but my sister Kay and my other brother Jim piled into the back seat.

I was only ten months old, Nana held me close when the drunk driver plowed our car’s engine through the chassis and into the Flapper’s legs.

I have no real memory of 1949. But I do remember a swinging Dutch door in our Scranton, PA kitchen. And I remember my First Holy Communion at a farmhouse on Lake Wallenpaupack – which was named by the Lenape, “The Stream of Swift and Slow Water.”

In her later years, the Flapper lived on Lake Minnetonka, MN, very close to both of my brothers. Every July Fourth Mike would throw a barbeque, and Kay would fly out to spend the holiday with the family. I didn’t go very often because Bob was always working; it seems that an Emergency Department with its new influx of summer residents is extremely busy with fireworks mishaps and drunk drivers. I liked staying home, alone. I can’t tell you how many severed fingers have accompanied his patients, or how many motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol happened on the Fourth.

But I can tell you that today I won’t be alone. Bob and I will slather on the sunscreen and attend our last Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello, the speaker should be interesting:

David N. Saperstein, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom and prominent Reform rabbi, will be the featured speaker, addressing new citizens from around the world. https://www.monticello.org/site/visit/events/july-4th-monticello

And even though I didn’t vote for our President, I will cry patriotic tears when all those immigrants raise their hands to pledge allegiance to these United States of America. I always do. Tyranny can’t triumph, we are still free to speak our mind even if our press is denied access to this White House. Democracy is the law of the land and Monticello was, in large part, its birthplace.

Love Trumps Hate. Happy Independence Day everyone!  IMG_0830

 

 

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Happy First Day of Spring! We are in the middle of a self-inflicted March Madness (sorry Blue Devils), pruning and sprucing up the yard while simultaneously cleaning out closets. Bob gets to ride around on his tractor while I get to tackle my clothes. And since I’m not afraid to ask for help, this year I’ve called in a professional. The Bride gave me the idea; in the past, she would sit among my shoes and ask, “How many pairs of red shoes do you need Mom?” A few weeks ago, my daughter suggested I try hiring someone who does this sort of thing for a living. Not a psychologist/clutter counselor per se, but a stylist.

A stylist? Moi? She said she has friends in Nashville who rave about this service. And here I thought you had to be a celebrity to hire a stylist, I never even had a personal shopper. Or a Stitch Fix account for that matter…and then I thought, wait, why not? It’s true I can write in my nightgown, but hey, we are on the move! Looking for a beach house, traveling to France, moving closer to our Grandbabies, if only I had thought of this before the Rocker’s wedding! Remember, one of my first articles for the “Berkshire Eagle” was titled, “Fashion Police.” 

I wrote about moving from New Jersey to New England, trying to fit in with the natives. The paper actually hired models to illustrate my three styles of dressing – 1) the Native wore jeans, flannel and work boots; they were very early adopters of the uni-sex grunge look; 2) the Tourists were New Yorkers who came for the weekend or the summer and wore mostly Black to Tanglewood; and then you had the rest of us. I was a 3) Transplant, we had moved to Pittsfield from all over the country, we didn’t even own a pair of jeans, and didn’t have a style of our own. Hey, it was the 80s.

Obviously, it was a semi-satirical essay!

Moving to Virginia wasn’t too traumatic. We built our small house, pared down our lives. I was wearing jeans again, and I’d discovered Eileen Fisher. She is a designer who spoke my language, ethically sourced clothes in natural fibers, her designs are the epitome of easy elegance. Stevie Nix meets Helen Mirren! This old Catholic School girl was close to finally finding her own style. At least once a year I’d meet Anita for lunch in Richmond and get my Nordstrom/Eileen Fisher fix.

I knew I was on the right track when I found Andrea Wood, a “Personal Stylist and Wardrobe Consultant.”  www.andreawoodstyling.com  She doesn’t just help you clean out your closets, she looks at your clothes with a professional’s eye. The first thing I had to do was answer a questionnaire, then she had me make a special Pinterest page. I already had an old page called “Fashionish,” which tells you how I felt about my clothes. But now, I was having fun on our last snow day of the year looking for something new. I titled this page, “Style Mavens!” https://www.pinterest.com/mpjamma/style-mavens/

As soon as she walked in the door, I knew Andrea had my number. We talked a little over tea and then we got to work. The first thing I asked her was, “How many pairs of khaki pants does one need?” She zipped through my walk-in closet in no time, pulling out things she thought were outdated, or just didn’t look like “ME.” How did she know me so well? We made a special spot for “Vintage,” and another for Caribbean vacations. I no longer needed Black-Tie event dresses, and besides these heavily sequined silk numbers had seen a moth, or two. And also I’ll never see size 6 again.

It was such a relief this closet cleanse. Andrea told me she didn’t really think I needed much help putting outfits together (thank you dear), although we did do some mixing and matching. She piled all my old clothes in her car and was going to donate some and start a consignment account for me at a local shop with the others. I looked around and took a deep breath. I’d found things I forgot I had, clothes I never could find because I couldn’t move the hangers, beautiful blouses and pants that fit! She was a miracle worker, and she inspired me to keep going.

Sweaters were next. I posted a picture of the first sweater I ever knit on Facebook. I was trying to finish it in England and wore it through the metal detector in Heathrow with a stitch holder in my neck. That set off all the alarms and prompted my first full body search at an airport. I paired it in the 80s with a long, flowy skirt and Goth boots. I wanted to crowd source the question, “Keep or Donate?” Ms Cait, my new Daughter-in-Law, loved it and so I’ll be shipping it to LA pronto.

We all deserve our own “What Not to Wear” consultation at least once in our lives. My old friend and clutter counselor Betsy didn’t live around the block anymore. Anyone going through a transition – selling a house, losing weight, spring cleaning or just plain suffering from FOTO the dreaded Fear of Throwing Out – could benefit from a kind, professional helping hand. This coming weekend is the VA Book Festival, and now I can look less like a conflicted writer in yoga pants, and more like a confident writer in casual chic street wear! Thanks Andrea! 

This is the “Before” picture she wanted. Notice how clothes are barely able to breathe? Final pictures coming soon!  IMG_0172

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